Top 10 at a glance 2004-08-16

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 At A Glance A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 - August 16, 2004 The following is a glance at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 in the championship entering ...

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 At A Glance
A weekly look at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 - August 16, 2004 The following is a glance at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 in the championship entering Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, TNT), Race 23 of 36 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule. The first 26 races of the season will determine which drivers will be part of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup in the final 10 races. The drivers who are in the NASCAR Top 10 in addition to any within 400 points of the leader after those 26 races -- with the final one being Richmond on Sept. 11 -- will vie for the series title in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

No. 1 -- Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3143. Previous ranking: 1. Johnson was plagued with engine misfortune for the second consecutive race, finishing 40th at Sunday's SIRIUS at The Glen at Watkins Glen International due to engine failure. Johnson, who finished 36th the previous week at Indianapolis because of engine woes, remains at No. 1 for the eighth consecutive race week, but his sizeable advantage has shrunk considerably over the past two races. Johnson had no driver inside of 232 points of him prior to that, but now finds three inside of 200. Second-ranked Jeff Gordon has closed to 40 points, No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 128 behind and No. 4 Tony Stewart is 192 back. Johnson will look to rebound at Michigan, where he has a pair of top-10 finishes in five career starts. He was strong in his most recent visit in June when he finished fourth. His other top 10 came in August of 2002 when he finished seventh. He has finished among the top 16 in four of his career starts and has led three races, including his last two.

No. 2 -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 3103 (-40). Previous ranking: 2. Gordon finished 21st at Watkins Glen, marking just the second time in the last nine races he did not register a top-five finish. Despite the finish, he was able to continue to chip away at top-ranked Jimmie Johnson's lead. Gordon cut the deficit by 57 points thanks to a 40th-place finish by Johnson, and now sits just 40 points out. Gordon, ranked No. 2 for the third consecutive race week, has gained 192 points on Johnson in the last two races as he chases the No. 1 ranking he has not held since winning the series championship in 2001. Gordon could make up some more ground this weekend at Michigan, where he is a two-time winner and has recorded 14 top-five finishes in 23 career starts. He has struggled in his last two visits, however, with finishes of 30th or worse. He was 30th in this race last season, and sat on the pole and led 81 laps earlier this season but was victimized by a DNF (Did Not Finish) due to an engine problem and finished 38th. The Bud Pole was his fourth at Michigan, where he has 14 top-10 starts. He also has led laps in 16 of his starts at the 2-mile oval, including two of his last three.

No. 3 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 3015 (-128). Previous ranking: 3. Earnhardt Jr., struggling of late with finishes outside the top 20 in his last four races, rebounded strongly at Watkins Glen with a fifth-place finish. The performance was just his second top-10 finish in his last eight starts -- the other being a third at Daytona in early July -- and allowed him to continue to fend off No. 4 Tony Stewart and remain among the top three in the points for the last 19 race weeks, including the last three at No. 3. He is ahead of Stewart by 64 points and 88 behind No. 2 Jeff Gordon. He is one of four drivers to be ranked all season long and has been ranked among the Top 10 for 55 consecutive races dating to last season. Earnhardt Jr. has qualified well at Michigan with two Bud Poles and six top-10 starts in 10 career starts overall, but has managed just a pair of top-10 finishes. The efforts came back to back as he finished 10th in August of 2002 and followed with a seventh in June of the following season. He finished 32nd in this event last year and 21st here earlier this season.

No. 4 -- Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet). Team Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 2951 (-192). Previous ranking: 4. Stewart won Sunday's SIRIUS at The Glen at Watkins Glen International for his second victory of the season and 19th of his career. He has been extremely strong of late with five top-five finishes in his last six races, including his other win at Chicago in mid-July. He remains at No. 4 for the second race week in a row and for the fifth time in the last six weeks, but continues to inch closer to the top three. Stewart, one of four drivers to be ranked all season long, has closed to 64 points of No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr., 152 of No. 2 Jeff Gordon and 192 of top-ranked Jimmie Johnson. Stewart is a former winner at Michigan (June of 2000) and has six top-10 finishes in 11 career starts overall. Three of those top 10s have come in his last four visits, including a third in this event last year. Earlier this season, he finished 24th.

No. 5 -- Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 2876 (-267). Previous ranking: 5. Kenseth finished ninth at Watkins Glen for his third top-10 effort in the last four weeks and maintained the No. 5 ranking for the fifth time in the last six race weeks. He has been among the Top 10 for 57 consecutive race weeks dating to last season, the longest current streak in the series, and is one of four drivers who have been ranked all season thus far. Kenseth enters this weekend at Michigan with a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes, including a seventh in June, and five in his last six starts at the 2-mile oval. Overall, he owns six top-10 efforts in 10 career starts, the highlight being a victory in June of 2002.

No. 6 -- Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford). Team: Robert Yates Racing. Points: 2792 (-351). Previous ranking: 6. Sadler finished 15th at Watkins Glen for his fourth consecutive top-15 finish and remained at No. 6 for the third consecutive race week. He remains one of four drivers to be ranked in the Top 10 throughout all 22 race weeks and sits 38 points ahead of No. 7 Kurt Busch and 84 points behind No. 5 Matt Kenseth. Sadler broke through at Michigan earlier this season, posting a fifth-place finish for his first top-10 performance in 11 career starts at the 2-mile oval. His previous-best effort was 11th in August of 1999. He has finished among the top 20 in his last three visits, including 12th in this event last season.

No. 7 -- Kurt Busch (No. 97 IRWIN Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 2754 (-389). Previous ranking: 7. Busch finished 10th at Watkins Glen for his second top-10 finish in a row and third in the last four races. The effort allowed him to maintain the No. 7 ranking for the third consecutive race week and he now has been ranked among the Top 10 for the past 21 race weeks in a row. He is 37 points ahead of No. 8 Kevin Harvick and 38 behind No. 6 Elliott Sadler. Busch has a pair of top-10 finishes at Michigan, including a victory in June of last season. His other top 10 was a 10th in June of 2002. He finished 18th in this event last year and 11th here in June. He has led 23 or more laps in four of his last five visits, the shutout coming in his most recent appearance.

No. 8 -- Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 2717 (-426). Previous ranking: 9. Harvick posted his second consecutive top-10 finish with a sixth at Watkins Glen and moved up one position to No. 8. Harvick, who finished eighth the previous week at Indianapolis, moved three points ahead of No. 9 Bobby Labonte and closed to 37 points of No. 7 Kurt Busch. Harvick has finished among the top 15 in six of his last seven races and the No. 8 ranking marks only the second time in the last 11 race weeks that he was not ranked No. 9 or No. 10. He previously held the No. 8 ranking following Chicago in mid-July during this stretch. Harvick owns three top-10 finishes in seven career starts at Michigan, including a personal best of second in this event last season. He led 46 laps in that race, marking the second time he had led at MIS since leading 42 laps en route to a third-place finish in August of 2002. Earlier this season, he finished 17th.

No. 9 -- Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 2714 (-429). Previous ranking: 8. Labonte finished 11th at Watkins Glen for his best performance over the last five races, but it was not enough from keeping him from falling a position to No. 9. Labonte, who was seeking his first top-10 finish since a seventh at Daytona in July, is just three points behind No. 8 Kevin Harvick, but has No. 10 Jeremy Mayfield just 58 back of his position. Labonte has been strong at Michigan, with three wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 24 career starts overall. He swept in 1995 and added his third win in this event in 1999. He has top-10 finishes in two of his last three visits, including an eighth earlier this season. He finished 37th in this event last season as a result of a DNF (Did Not Finish), his first at Michigan since 1993. Labonte also has been an excellent qualifier with four Bud Poles, including a sweep of the top position for both events last season.

No. 10 -- Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 UAW/Dodge Dealers Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 2656 (-487). Previous ranking: 12. Mayfield finished seventh at Watkins Glen to jump from No. 12 to No. 10 and unseat Ryan Newman for an automatic berth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with four races remaining to determine the participants. The performance was his fourth top-10 finish in his last five races and it moved him into the Top 10 for the first time since he was ranked No. 8 following Bristol in late March. He trails No. 9 Bobby Labonte by 58 points and No. 8 Kevin Harvick by 61, but also must continue to fend off the 11th- through 15th-ranked drivers who are all within 99 points of his position. Teammate Kasey Kahne at No. 11 is just 24 points back; No. 12 Newman is 29 behind; No. 13 Mark Martin is 72 out; No. 14 Dale Jarrett is 87 back; and No. 15 Jamie McMurray is 99 behind. Mayfield will need to step it up at Michigan if he wants to hold the No. 10 ranking for another week. He owns just three top-10 finishes in 21 career starts at Michigan, his most recent being a personal best of fourth in June of 2001. He has finished among the top 20 in three of his last four visits, including 19th earlier this season.

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Watkins Glen (Race 22 of 36):
1. Jimmie Johnson 3143 points
2. Jeff Gordon 3103 (-40)
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3015 (-128)
4. Tony Stewart 2951 (-192)
5. Matt Kenseth 2876 (-267)
6. Elliott Sadler 2792 (-351)
7. Kurt Busch 2754 (-389)
8. Kevin Harvick 2717 (-426)
9. Bobby Labonte 2714 (-429)
10. Jeremy Mayfield 2656 (-487)

Weeks at No. 1: Earnhardt Jr., 9; Johnson, 8; Kenseth, 4; Busch, 1.

Most weeks in the Top 10: 22 (tie), Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Stewart, Sadler.

New arrivals: No. 10 Mayfield.

Biggest gain: No. 10 Mayfield, two positions.

Dropped out: No. 10 Ryan Newman.

Additional championship qualifiers (within 400 points of the leader) at this stage: None.

Chasing the "Chase" (drivers nearest the No. 10 ranking): No. 11 Kasey Kahne, 2632 (-24); No. 12 Ryan Newman, 2627 (-29); No. 13 Mark Martin, 2584 (-72); No. 14 Dale Jarrett, 2569 (-87); No. 15 Jamie McMurray, 2557 (-123).

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing , Yates Racing